Happy Birthday Lenny Bruce

Dateline October 13, 1925 – Leonard Alfred Schneider is born in Mineola, New York. By the time Lenny Bruce died in 1966 he had changed the face of comedy forever. However, more importantly, he changed the face of The First Amendment and Free Speech forever.

“I rode with him in a taxi once,only for a mile and a half. Seemed like it took a couple of months”

– Bob Dylan about Lenny Bruce

Lenny Bruce had many run-ins with the authorities over obscenity in his night club act. According to the WikiWackyWoo:

 On October 4, 1961, Bruce was arrested for obscenity at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco; he had used the word cocksucker and riffed that “to is a preposition, come is a verb”, that the sexual context of come is so common that it bears no weight, and that if someone hearing it becomes upset, he “probably can’t come”. Although the jury acquitted him, other law enforcement agencies began monitoring his appearances, resulting in frequent arrests under charges of obscenity.

Bruce was arrested again in 1961, in Philadelphia, for drug possession the same year, and again in Los Angeles, California, two years later. The Los Angeles arrest took place in then-unincorporated West Hollywood, and the arresting officer was a young deputy named Sherman Block, who would later become County Sheriff. The specification this time was that the comedian had used the word schmuck, an insulting Yiddish term that is an obscene term for penis.[citation needed]

In April 1964, he appeared twice at the Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village, with undercover police detectives in the audience. On both occasions, he was arrested after leaving the stage, the complaints again pertaining to his use of various obscenities.

A three-judge panel presided over his widely publicized six-month trial, prosecuted by Asst. Manhattan D.A. Richard Kuh, with Bruce and club owner Howard Solomon both found guilty of obscenity on November 4, 1964. The conviction was announced despite positive testimony and petitions of support from – among other artists, writers and educators – Woody Allen, Bob Dylan, Jules Feiffer, Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, William Styron, and James Baldwin, and Manhattan journalist and television personality Dorothy Kilgallen and sociologist Herbert Gans. Bruce was sentenced, on December 21, 1964, to four months in a workhouse; he was set free on bail during the appeals process and died before the appeal was decided. Solomon later saw his conviction overturned; Bruce, who died before the decision, never had his conviction stricken. Bruce later received a full posthumous gubernatorial pardon.

“Lenny Bruce died from an overdose of police”
– Phil Spector

 Much of what Lenny Bruce said is as true today as it was when it came out of his mouth:

Take away the right to say “fuck” and you take away the right to say “fuck the government.”

The only truly anonymous donor is the guy who knocks up your daughter.

If something about the human body disgusts you complain to the manufacturer.

The kind of sickness I wish Time had written about, is that school teachers in Oklahoma get a top annual salary of $4000, while Sammy Davis, Jr. gets $10,000 a week in Vegas.

All my humor is based upon destruction and despair. If the whole world were tranquil, without disease and violence, I’d be standing on the breadline right in back of J. Edgar Hoover.

Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God. 

 A Jew, in the dictionary, is one who is descended from the ancient tribes of Judea, or one who is regarded as a descendant from that tribe. That’s what it says in the dictionary, but you and I know what a Jew is: One Who Killed Our Lord… there should be a statute of limitations for that crime.

The liberals can understand everything but people who don’t understand them.

Satire is tragedy plus time. You give it enough time, the public, the reviewers will allow you to satirize it. Which is rather ridiculous, when you think about it.

If you’re from New York and you’re Catholic, you’re still Jewish. If you’re from Butte Montana and you’re Jewish, you’re still goyisch. The Air Force is Jewish, the Marine Corps dangerous goyisch. Rye Bread is Jewish, instant potatoes, scary goyisch. Eddie Cantor is goyisch, George Jessel is goyisch-Coleman Hawkins is Jewish.

“Bruce stands up against all limitations on the flesh and spirit, and someday they are going to crush him for it.”
– The New York Post

Some of what Lenny Bruce said is just outright funny:

I won’t say ours was a tough school, but we had our own coroner. We used to write essays like: What I’m going to be if I grow up.

Some of what Lenny Bruce said is just poignant:

I’ll die young, but it’s like kissing God.

This is one of Lenny Bruce’s most famous routines:

“But like all the truly important people in the world, he’s dead but he”ll live on.”
– Ralph J. Gleason

I first learned to love Lenny Bruce when Frank Zappa released The Berkeley Concert on his Straight label. It’s still worth a listen:

Lenny Bruce had a life worth exploring. If you are unfamiliar with his life and troubles with the law, this is a good place to start.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.

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